Interesting Article: A Religious College Major…in Secularism?

College becomes nation’s first to offer major in secularism

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – I don’t know whether to be surprised that it happened or surprised that it took so long: a California college has become the first in the nation to offer a major in secularism.

The New York Times reported this weekend on the move by Pitzer College, a liberal arts institution in Southern California that’s one of seven Claremont Colleges.

Some back story from The Times:

The department was proposed by Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist of religion, who describes himself as “culturally Jewish, but agnostic-atheist on questions of deep mystery.” Over the years he grew increasingly intrigued by the growth of secularism in the United States and around the world.

Indeed, signs abound that an aggressively secular demographic is growing in the United States and Europe, even as religion continues to occupy an important place in America and as Christianity and Islam see tremendous growth in the global south.

Last month saw the publication of a so-called secular Bible by an influential British atheist.  A recent academic paper predicted that religion will all but die out in nine Western-style democracies. And the number of overtly secular campus-based student groups appears to be exploding.

In addition to publishing books about atheism, the Pitzer College prof who proposed the new secular studies department has compiled a list of the 65 greatest songs for atheists and agnostics (though the atheism or agnosticism of some titles on the list, like The Beatles’ “Think for Yourself,” are debatable).

A few additional details on Pitzer’s new department from the Times:

Professors from other departments, including history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology, will teach courses like “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Anxiety in the Age of Reason” and “Bible as Literature.”

Laura Skandera Trombley, the president of Pitzer, said in an interview, “It’s a serious area of scholarly endeavor, and Pitzer College has a tradition of doing really exciting, cutting-edge intellectual work, so this really fits into the ethos of the college.”

Have you seen other signs that colleges are becoming more interested in the study of secularization and atheism?

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